Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 29.djvu/28

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18
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

therefore, most acceptable to the Mexican Church and its adherents; and in Maximilian of Austria they thought they had found a man after their own heart.

He was a man of elegant presence, winning manners, and of much refinement and culture; and these qualities, with undoubted personal courage, contributed to give him a certain amount of personal popularity and sympathy. But he was, nevertheless, in all matters of government, always a representative of the highest type of absolutism or imperialism, and in devotion to the Catholic Church an extremist, even almost to the point of fanaticism. The first of these assertions finds illustration in his establishment of a court, with orders of nobility, decorations, and minute ceremonials; the construction and use of an absurd state carriage—modeled after the style of Louis XIV—and still shown in the National Museum; and worse, by the proclamation and execution of an order (which subsequently cost Maximilian his own life), that all republican officers taken prisoner in battle by the imperialists should be summarily executed as bandits; and, second, by his walking barefoot, on a day of pilgrimage, all the way over some two or three miles of dusty, disagreeable road, from the city of Mexico to the shrine of the Virgin at Guadalupe.

When the attitude and demand of the United States, on the termination of the rebellion, induced the withdrawal of the French forces from Mexico, Maximilian, at the suggestion of Louis Napoleon, prepared to abdicate; and, in October, 1866, even commenced his journey to Vera Cruz, with the intent of embarking from the country. Unfortunately for himself, however, he was persuaded by the Church party, under assurances of their ability to support him, to return to the city of Mexico and resume his government. But the attempt was hopeless, and culminated some six months later in his capture and execution by the republican forces, and with the downfall of the "Maximilian" or the "imperial" government, Juarez became the undisputed, and also, to all intents and purposes, the absolute, ruler of the country.

This portion of the more recent history of Mexico has been detailed somewhat minutely, because the series of events embraced in it led up to and culminated in an act of greater importance, than anything which has happened in the country since the achievement of its independence from Spanish domination. For no sooner had Juarez obtained an indorsement of his authority as President, by a general election, than he practically carried out with the co-operation of Congress, and with an apparent spirit of vindictiveness (engendered, it has been surmised, by the memory of the oppressions to which his race had been subjected), the provisions of the Constitution which he had been instrumental in having adopted in 1857. The entire property of the Mexican Church was at once "nationalized" (a synonym for confiscation) for the use of the state. Every convent, monastic institution, or religious house was closed up and devoted to